Nov 17, 2016

the dark sides of empathy

this image comes up when you google empathy -
is this how you imagine it working?
I have repeatedly blogged here about how empathy can be problematic, particularly when it is appropriative. I have argued that when empathy does lead to solidarity, there is a greater risk of it being a more colonial sort of solidarity. Yet I am happy to see that even as empathy experiments abound, there seems to be a growing discussion and critique of empathy. 

The European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts is dedicating its next annual conference to the theme of empathy, or EMPATHIES rather: www.empathies2017.com.

The conference will take place in Basel (Switzerland), from 21-24 June 2017. The deadline is: 10 December 2015. It will be organised along the four streams: (1) Empathy, Morality, Ethics; (2) Empathy, Narrative, Imagination; (3) Empathy and the Nonhuman; (4) Collective Empathy. 

As Manuela Rossini, the president of the association, put it in an email: 


A transversal theme will also be "the dark sides of empathy," which certainly includes critical perspectives from postcolonial studies on the topic. In addition, there will be a pre-conference workshop on 20 June for doctoral candidates and postdocs dedicated to "The Cultural Politics of Empathy."

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